cover image Heartbreaker


Karen Robards. Delacorte Press, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31038-3

When divorced Chicago anchorwoman Lynn Nelson, 35, signs on to chaperone high school students on a horseback riding vacation in the Utah mountains, she views it as an opportunity to bond with her increasingly estranged teenage daughter, Rory. In the prolific Robards's latest romantic tall tale (after Hunter's Moon), what Lynn doesn't count on, besides the bruising reality of actually riding horses, is finding love and stumbling on a plot to blow up the world. When Lynn meets hunky outfitter Jess, both immediately feel a strong antipathy that teeters perilously close to attraction. Matters take a melodramatic turn when an accident separates Lynn, Jess and Rory from their group and they happen upon a presumably deserted mining camp where they find themselves plunged into a nightmare. Confronted with a scene of mass murder, pursued by deadly religious cultists, they must depend on one another in order to survive--and to avert global catastrophe, for the cultists plan to detonate nuclear bombs and unleash chemical weapons throughout the world. Perils-of-Pauline chapter endings keep the pages turning, although cliched characterizations--Marlboro Man Jess, overachieving Lynn, annoying teen Rory--mar the whole. It's hard to accept that a contemporary career woman who exclaims ""Rats! Curses!"" when faced with a problem will play a pivotal role in averting Armageddon. But then, romantic suspense, not suspension of disbelief, has always been Robards's signature, and here, as before, she signs her tale with a flourish. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Jan.)